Unions will have to Adopt Out of Box Methods to Protect the Interest of Journalists

Unions will have to Adopt Out of Box Methods to Protect the Interest of Journalists
The face of journalism has undergone a cataclysmic change in the last thirty years, The credit must be given to the technology, particularly to Google. Pre-Google journalism was slow but more credible, demanding and labour intensive but post-Google journalism is fast-paced but not so credible and requires much less labour. Earlier one had to wait for almost a day to get the newspapers, which often carried stale news, but one gets the update at every minute. In India, for some 35 years ago, the only electronic media that we had were the government-controlled All-India Radio and Doordarshan. But when the doors were opened for private channels, it was the second phase of the revolution. However, after the advent of the Internet and Google, there is hardly any need for newspapers or even Television Channels because one carries the gadget of news in one’s own pocket in the form of a cell phone. Not only news but views of different types are available on the mobiles, and this is the reason that Mobile Journalism (MOJO) has gained unprecedented popularity. It has caught the imagination of the readers, audience, and viewers.
Post Google Journalism has given rise to digital journalism, and this is the many important newspapers and magazines of the world that have stopped their print editions. Needless to say that the digitisation of newspapers has expanded the reach of the newspapers beyond geographical boundaries. For instance, earlier one could read the Assam Tribune-a leading newspaper of the Northeast in the limited areas. Now the social media has become more powerful than Print of Electronic Media but since it has no gatekeeper, it has taken the credibility of the media to rock bottom.
Working Journalist Act was Indeed a Revolutionary Act
For the journalists in India, the year 1952 was the turning point, when the Government decided to constitute the First Press Commission headed by Justice G C Rajyadhyaksh, which provided for the enactment of the Working Journalist Act, 1955, which properly defined the journalists, and the provision for the Wage Boards for the revision of wages of the newspaper employees from time to time and also for the enactment of the Press Council to ensure that the norms of journalism are not violated. To be fair, it worked well for some time, but it has now no relevance. The definition of journalists has completely changed, Wage Boards do not hold any good and the same is the case with the Press Council of India. Even otherwise also, the Press Council was a toothless tiger. It has never had any powers to regulate the erring newspapers or journalists or those, who have been creating problems for them in their free and fair workings. As a matter of fact, the Press Council of India should have been disbanded long back and replaced with an all-encompassing Media Council.
According to the Working Journalist Act, a person whose principal avocation is a journalist and who is employed as such, either whole-time or part-time, in, or in relation to, one or more newspaper establishment is a journalist, but it does not include any such person who is employed mainly in a managerial, supervisory, or administrative capacity. However, in the new definition, as provided in the new Code of Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, Electronic, Digital Media and Web Portals have also been included.
It must be mentioned here that the definition of the Working Journalist has been amended and enlarged only on the constant struggle of the Indian Federation of Working Journalists (IFWJ) at all available fora. It submitted a comprehensive memorandum to the Parliamentary Committee on the Labour Ministry, which incorporated the journalists of all genres in its definition. Now the revised definition is that “Working Journalist” means a person whose principal avocation is that of a journalist and who is employed as such, either whole-time or part-time, in, or in relation to, one or more newspaper establishment, or other establishment relating to any electronic media or digital media such as newspaper or radio or other like media and includes an editor, a leader-writer, news editor, sub-editor, feature writer, copy tester, reporter, correspondent, cartoonist, news-photographer and proof-reader, but does not include any such person who is employed mainly in a managerial, supervisory or administrative capacity.
March of Technology must be Embraced for the Betterment of Journalists and Journalism
However, it must be accepted, in all fairness, that the digitalisation of the Media has given the biggest setback to the unity and struggle of the journalists across the board, but the march of technology can neither be stopped nor should be stopped. The only way out is to make maximum use of the technology for the betterment of journalism and the journalists. Trade Unionism has become the biggest casualty. The Damocles’ sword always hangs on the heads of all those who try to unionise the journalists. Previously, the newspaper employees used to rub shoulders with non-journalist employees, who used to provide rock-like support in the struggle. Now it is almost impossible because printing has lost much of its sheen. It holds good not only for the Portals and Electronic but also for the Print media. The mushroom growth has further created a lot of problems for the uniformity in wages and other facilities for the journalists.
The newspaper proprietors have already been denying legal rights to employees like wages as per the recommendations of the Wage Boards and other rights as available to them under the labour laws. So, it will be futile to expect much from them. Now the chances of getting the legal rights have further become bleak. Assam Working Journalists Union is a premier organisation of the journalists, not only in the Northeast but it has been a role model for the journalists of the entire country. Its outgoing President Shri Keshab Kalita, who is also, fortunately, the Vice-President of the IFWJ has set an example of the struggle for the journalist community. We hope that the new leadership will continue to get his guidance and inspiration for safeguarding the interests of the journalist community. IFWJ extends its best wishes to the new leadership of AWJU.
Parmanand Pandey
Secretary General: IFWJ